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Rural project targets drug, alcohol abuse

A three-county project to combat drug and alcohol abuse in rural areas enlisted 125 volunteers in its first year, organizers said Monday.

Gadsden, Jefferson and Wakulla counties' Rural Neighbors in Partnership volunteers are ready to survey professionals and others to gauge the extent of drug and alcohol abuse, and risk factors that can lead to abuse, project manager Gail Dixon said.

Risk factors include poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, lack of transportation and lack of access to health care, Dixon said.

The county groups will investigate what services are available to deal with the problems, where there are gaps and how they can be filled. "We will look to the counties to tell us what they need," she said.

"We have to become intolerant of activities in our own counties that we just aren't going to stand for any more.

A five-year, $500,000-a-year, federal grant pays for the project. The money comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. The project is administered by DISC Village Inc., with the Florida School Boards Association as a consulting partner.

"There's a great misperception that the drug problem exists only in the urban areas," said Wayne Blanton, executive director of the school boards group.

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